Do You Really Have to Understand Men When Dating?


Conventional wisdom, and the dating experts who embrace it think that women should try to understand men for dating success.

Empathy is important for any relationship, dating notwithstanding, but what if ‘women always trying to understand men’ has its perils? We think it does, and we have an example to back it up.

As a woman, haven’t you found that since you were old enough to talk, you were raised to be a ‘people pleaser?’ After all, conventional wisdom and childhood limericks say that women are made of sugar and spice and everything nice.

Conventional wisdom on the dating scene, at least, doesn’t seem very wise sometimes. Because women have this tendency to people-please, we often neglect our own needs in a relationship.

What if instead of trying to understand men, we tried to understand ourselves first?

If you’re someone who has a habit of tuning in to what’s best for others before getting your own needs met, trying to understand a man first is probably not the best advice for you.

Does any of this sound familiar to you or your female friends on the dating scene? When you or a friend tries to understand a man first, this happens:

  • You make excuses for their boorish, insensitive behavior.
  • “He’s just afraid of commitment. Nothing to worry about.” Proceed full-steam-ahead anyway.
  • A man expects sex by the third date at the latest, and I better not disappoint!

When your mindset is all about understanding the man from the get-go, you run the risk of being too understanding or accommodating, and you can forget your needs in the process. If you ignore your needs and don’t acknowledge them, how can he? He isn’t a mind reader.

If you want to have success in your romantic relationship with a man, you must understand and put yourself first before diving into a relationship.

How would this look with one of the above 3 examples?

If your date was acting insensitive or boorish, ideally you would acknowledge to yourself that you weren’t happy about it. And tell him! If you want him to consider your needs, you must know what your needs are, and so does he.

Of course, you don’t want to be mean about it, but be firm. All you have to say is, “I’m not comfortable with that.” or “I don’t like that.” If he’s a good person worth dating, he’ll apologize and not do it again. If not, he’ll throw a fit or keep doing it. There’s your answer: don’t date that guy. Acknowledging your own needs and understanding yourself can keep you safe in the dating world and keep you away from toxic people.

When you focus on your own needs and wants in a relationship and understand yourself first, you’re going to approach dating from a more confident place, and you’ll be more comfortable when you put yourself out there.

When you enter the dating world, ask yourself this first:

What do you want?

Don’t make excuses for others, always pay attention to whether or not you’re comfortable with what the other person is doing.

Below is an example of this from * Wendy’s perspective. In the past, Wendy had dated coming from a place where she focused on understanding the man first. This, of course, wasn’t working for her. Recently, Wendy decided to try dating with herself as the center of focus. What was she comfortable with?

Wendy met Pat at a party, and they seemed to really hit it off. Wendy was delighted that he’d asked her out right away. Pat was attractive, funny, and he seemed like a nice guy.

But on many of Wendy’s past dates, she’d been hurt that the guys never asked her out a second time. Wendy felt like she’d really given a lot of herself when these dates asked her personal information and probing questions. She figured she’d be nice and answer them, even though in her gut she was a little uncomfortable.

In hindsight, Wendy concluded that maybe she’d given these past dates way too much personal information that had freaked them out. Even though they asked! Wendy decided that on future dates she wouldn’t answer any personal questions that made her uncomfortable until she got to know a man better.

 So on this date with Pat, when he asked, “What happened to your last relationship?” Wendy was ready with her answer.

 She said, “We had a lot of fun together, but it just didn’t work out.”

 Wendy felt good about herself because she was honest, but didn’t let the question throw her off and make her nervously word-vomit a bunch of embarrassing and personal information. Maybe if things worked out with Pat, she’d tell him more in the future if he ever asked again.

 Pat quickly picked up that Wendy didn’t want to say more, and he immediately dropped the subject.

By taking the time to self-reflect and understand what she was comfortable with, do you see how Wendy didn’t feel obligated to tell Pat more information? She wasn’t even fazed by the prospect of Pat not being satisfied with her answer. The center of focus was on Wendy and what she wanted or didn’t want to do, and not on Pat. As it should be! After all, Pat is really just a stranger. Wendy has to be with Wendy 24/7 for the rest of her life.

Wendy learned the hard way through past dating experiences that she was much better off understanding herself, and expecting respect from her dating partner  rather than trying to understand him first.

Remember, a good man wants you to be comfortable around him. He won’t push you to talk about or do something if you aren’t comfortable. He’ll respect your boundaries and the limits you set, just like Pat did in the example above.

If someone doesn’t respect your boundaries on the first date, he never will. And if they don’t respect you then, that’s your answer. Don’t go on another date with someone like that. They will only spell trouble and heartache for you.

You only want to date and get involved with good people who are respectful.

Wendy’s story can show you how to be your own Brand of Sexy.

What does that mean?

Being your own Brand of Sexy means understanding what you want in a relationship, what works for you as an individual, and what strategies will help you achieve your relationship goals, whatever they may be.

So what do you think? Have you had a ‘Wendy’ moment? What’s holding you back if you haven’t?

If you want to start implementing this approach of understanding yourself before understanding a man, leave a comment below, and share your questions, worries, and triumphs.


*In order to ensure the privacy of my patients, clients, friends and myself, these stories are composites, taken from a variety of sources – work with patients, stories in magazines, talks with friends and situations from my own life.

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  • A Philby says:

    More genius from the Doctor. Men aren’t allowed opinions. Men don’t have their own feelings. Don’t empathise with them.

    Notice how all this advice is how to avoid or ditch men. Never how to find the perfect one.

    And as usual, she won’t reply to these comments.

  • A Philby says:

    More genius from the Doctor. Men aren’t allowed opinions. Men don’t have their own feelings. Don’t empathise with them.

    Notice how all this advice is how to avoid or ditch men. Never how to find the perfect one.

    And as usual, she won’t reply to these comments.

    • Dr. Susan says:

      Hi Anton,

      Thanks for writing again and giving me the opportunity to clarify another misunderstanding about my ideas.

      Men certainly are allowed to have their own opinions and feelings. I never suggested that you shouldn’t empathize with them, only that learning to understand yourself is more important. When women are focused on pleasing someone else, they can’t figure out what they want. Knowing what you want is the road to finding the perfect man. Finding the perfect man often does involve “ditching” the ones who aren’t the perfect man. If women don’t weed out the guys who won’t work for them, they can spend a lot of time and energy in the wrong relationship and miss opportunities to meet men who are a more suitable match.

      I’m not sure why you say I am not responding to comments. Here is my reply to the last comment you wrote:

      Dr. Susan

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